England wrapped up their T20 series against South Africa in style today by claiming a third consecutive victory against the Proteas.

Eoin Morgan’s men have been in fine form since arriving at the start of the tour, which makes it all the more gutting we can’t be there with them.

With that in mind, we decided it was our responsibility to give you a taster, or perhaps a reminder for the special ones among you, of what touring South Africa is like – with the help of Barmy Army co-founder Paul Burnham and managing director Chris Millard.

In our 20-plus years travelling to South Africa, there have been many memorable moments on the field, in the stands, and in the bars.

For Burnham, it’s hard for anything to top the Barmy Army’s game against Soweto Cricket Club on the 1995/96 tour, when a young Darren Stevens proved the star for the tourists.

 

He explains: “We had such good fun with the guys there from Soweto cricket club. They batted and got a lot of runs and we just kept sending batsman after batsman in.

“One of the big memories from that was that an 18-year-old Darren Stevens played for the Barmy Army, who’s become a bit of a county legend. He was a bit of a superstar in that game, he was about the only one that got any runs.

“The coach driver said we had to leave straight after the game but we told him weren’t going anywhere as we were staying to have a few drinks so he left.

“A few guys got taxis but most people stayed with the Soweto cricket club boys in the township. We stayed overnight and went and had a few drinks in the shebeen. We’ve got pictures of us all waking up heavy headed and having a great time. It sort of dispelled that myth that white people can’t go into a black township in Soweto. We had a great time and we were looked after amazingly.”

Last winter, 25 years on from that game, the Barmy Army played Soweto Cricket Club once again with many of the same faces taking part.

“We have very, very fond memories of an amazing experience,” says Burnham. “That was great and it was amazing to go back 25 years later and play with some of the guys that were there before. This time there was a coach that knew we were going to stay on. But you must never forget the after-game stuff, it’s just as important as the game itself.”

As far as England’s performances in South Africa are concerned, Mike Atherton’s 185 to save the game at Johannesburg in 1995 and Graham Onions’ stoic effort in search of the same result in 2010 are Burnham’s standout moments, while for Millard one moment eclipses all.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a sports stadium in the world, football, rugby, cricket, horse racing, anything that has matched day five in Cape Town on the most recent tour,” he says.

With England chasing the game, the Barmy Army’s support was a constant throughout the evening session and helped Joe Root’s side clinch victory.

“The atmosphere was special. Everyone that was there – be it a supporter, an official, or a player – had the same experience and that is unique.

“There was debate before the Test match about whether Test matches should be four days and I think that’s one day that single-handedly blew that debate out of the water.

“On day five were stood there at half-five still waiting for that last wicket. The atmosphere and the players responding to the Barmy Army, it really was the ultimate 12th man experience. Feeling you are almost part of the team. The players celebrate every time something good happens to the Barmy Army. It was just so incredible to be a part of. It felt like such a movement of support to get behind the team, to get them over the line, and they appreciated it as well.”

Millard added: “It was absolutely deafening and it was unbelievable to be a part of. A moment that I find hard to top for a single moment of atmosphere, obviously winning the World Cup and the Ben Stokes day at Headingley are up there, but for the sheer atmosphere and support, that experience in South Africa would be hard to beat.”

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